Question: "Why can't I let go of the past and move on with our marriage of 25 years? Do I need therapy? Thanks for your input!!!!!"
Answer: I would need a bit more information about your situation to answer your question more specifically. If you're dealing with the pain of your spouse's affair, the situation has to be dealt with before you can heal and move on. Affairs are not something you can just "forgive and forget," "suck it up," and "just get over it."
If I had broken your arm, would it be sufficient for me to say, "I'm really sorry. I won't do it again. Now let's forget about it and move on?" No. Your arm is still broken, in the same way your heart is now still broken. That’s a problem.
With a broken arm we would have to get you to a hospital. They would have to take an X-ray and find out where the specific damage to YOUR broken arm was. Then a trained expert (doctor in this case) would need to set the arm back in place (which would hurt more). Then we would put a cast over your broken arm to make sure it didn't get re-injured while it was healing.
It would take a period of time for you to heal. Once you were healed we'd be able to remove your cast and you would move on with your life. Interestingly enough, the spot in your bone that had been broken would actually be stronger than it was before. The last thing that hopefully would be done was to identify how your arm came to be broken in the first place and what can be done to prevent it from happening again in the future.
So in the same way, your heart needs to be in the hospital. You need some help from those who understand relationships and affairs to identify where the damage is in your heart, and then you'll need to face the affair and yourself and do the emotional surgery. We would need to protect you and your marriage from further damage during the healing process, and last we would need to identify why this happened and what would be different in the future to ensure that it doesn't happen again. And it would take time.
The interesting thing about affairs is that the perpetrator, who is also hurt, must turn around and become the healer. Usually the perpetrator doesn't want to discuss the affair, because it is painful for them to face what they've done wrong. But this is a key to healing, and this way your marriage can become better than ever before.
When the work of healing has been completed you and your marriage will be stronger than before.
When a marriage has been impacted by an extramarital affair, it will never be the same again. You will never forget, and you cannot go back to what it was before the affair.
You, as a person, will either be better or worse, the same is not an option. Which way you go from here is your choice. If you choose better it’s going to take some work, but in the end, this work will be much easier than the path of least resistance where you try to “just move on.” Some betrayed spouses will never be given the choice to heal their marriage, only the choice of how they will respond to this hurtful thing that has happened to them, and the choice of who they will become (internally) on the other side of the pain.
Things you can do to heal include:
1. Reading books on affairs Recommended Reading
2. Discussing the affair and your relationship (for hours) with your spouse. Getting answers to your questions.
3. Patience, lots of patience, love, respect and work on the part of you and your spouse.
4. Seeing a good counselor or therapist.
5. Attending a seminar or course specifically designed for helping couples heal from affairs. (or several over the time of your healing journey.) Our Healing From Affairs Weekend or if you're faced with healing alone, and healing your marriage is not an option for you attend the Take Your Life Back Retreat for betrayed spouses.
6. Attend a Beyond Affairs Network support group. BAN
You do not necessarily need to do all of these things. Each couple must decide for themselves what works best for their own healing. The three things you won’t make it without are reading books about affairs, discussing the affair with your spouse and patience.
I was once asked to participate in an article for a popular women’s magazine who promised to promote my book. The article was going to be done in the theme of “the one thing that saved my marriage.” Even though I was very tempted by the significant publicity this would be for promoting my book and my work, I eventually had to turn them down, because I could not participate and still keep my integrity. It would be deceiving people and harming them to claim that “one” thing could save a marriage.
My husband and I did all of the above during the two and a half years it took us to heal. Each gave us an important part of our healing, and I’m not sure we would be healed today without ALL of the things we did to heal our marriage.
Yes, it takes time and yes it’s hard work. Sorry there are no quick pills you can take to heal from an affair. But I want to tell you and your husband and every other person and couple out there who is dealing with affairs, the rewards of facing the issue head on and doing the hard work of personal growth and healing is so worth it.
My husband describes it this way: He says the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and our marriage before the affair was like watching the Grand Canyon on a top-of-the-line, large, flat screen, plasma TV. It was very good and very beautiful, but our marriage today is like standing on the edge of the cliff at the Grand Canyon and looking out over it. There is just no comparison, and hard as it was, we really wouldn’t want to have to go back to watching it on TV, now that we’ve experienced being there in person.
Brian and Anne
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